Fewer hungry humans — but still too many

Food aid in Tajikistan    Feed My Starving Children
Food aid in Tajikistan Feed My Starving Children


By Nathanael Johnson, Grist


Which country has the highest percentage of hungry people? I’ll put the answer at the bottom. (Hint: it’s not located in Africa.)

The United Nations’ annual report on hunger has arrived bearing sobering factoids like this one, along with some remarkably good news: There are now 100 million fewer chronically hungry people than there were 10 years ago.

The improvements vary dramatically. In southeast Asia, 30 percent of people were undernourished in 1992; now it’s down to 10 percent, a stunning accomplishment. But in the Middle East (here labeled western Asia), the percentage of undernourished people has actually gone up. Worldwide, 11 percent of people still go through most of their lives hungry.


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The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says that the Millennium Development Goals on hunger are within reach “if appropriate and immediate efforts are stepped up.”

What form should those efforts take? The UN urges everyone to remember that hunger is a fundamentally political problem:

Lack of food, as we’ve said, is not the problem. The world produces enough food for everyone to be properly nourished and lead a healthy and productive life. Hunger exists because of poverty, natural disasters, earthquakes, floods and droughts. Women are particularly affected. In many countries they do most of the farming, but do not have the same access as men to training, credit or land.

Hunger exists because of conflict and war, which destroy the chance to earn a decent living. It exists because poor people don’t have access to land to grow viable crops or keep livestock, or to steady work that would give them an income to buy food. It exists because people sometimes use natural resources in ways that are not sustainable. It exists because there is not enough investment in the rural sector in many countries to support agricultural development. Hunger exists because financial and economic crises affect the poor most of all by reducing or eliminating the sources of income they depend on to survive.

And finally it exists because there is not yet the political will and commitment to make the changes needed to end hunger, once and for all.

But how do you go about fixing those problems and mustering the political will? The new report suggests:

Hunger reduction requires an integrated approach, which would include: public and private investments to raise agricultural productivity; better access to inputs, land, services, technologies and markets; measures to promote rural development; social protection for the most vulnerable, including strengthening their resilience to conflicts and natural disasters; and specific nutrition programmes, especially to address micronutrient deficiencies in mothers and children under five.

In other words, the technical solutions can help with the political solutions and vice versa. This is a bit of a chicken and egg problem: Which do you do first: stop the war, or help farmers grow more food? If people are hungry, perhaps it’s better to send grain rather than soldiers. But if militants grab and sell the grain, we’re back to square one. The answer to the chicken and egg question seems to be: both.

As for the answer to the question I began with: Haiti is the nation with the highest percentage of hungry citizens. An astonishing 52 percent of people there are undernourished.

Monsanto’s absurdity reaches new heights

mon828By Jim Hightower, 3 November 2013, Climate Connection 

It was my privilege to go to Des Moines recently for a World Food Prize extravaganza recognizing Monsanto’s work against global hunger. But wait, Monsanto is not a hunger-fighter. It’s a predatory proliferator of proprietary and genetically engineered seeds.

That’s why I wasn’t actually attending the ceremony to bestow a false halo on the corporate giant. Rather, I was one of more than 500 scruffy “outsiders” in the city’s First United Methodist Church to protest the Monsanto absurdity.

There, real-life Iowa farmers spoke plainly about the countless abuses they have endured at the hands of the genetic manipulator.

One pointed out that if the corporation genuinely gave even one damn about hunger, it could’ve used its immense lobbying clout in Washington this year to stop Congress from stripping the entire food stamp program from the Farm Bill. Instead, Monsanto didn’t lift a finger to help fend off hunger in our own country.“It doesn’t care at all about feeding the world,” the Iowa farmer said with disgust. “It cares about profits, period.”

Indeed, Monsanto is a pitch-perfect example of what Pope Francis was referencing in May, when he declared: “Widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless. Concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics.”

How ironic, then, that Monsanto bought this year’s World Food Prize for itself, just to masquerade as a world hunger fighter, hoping to persuade the Vatican to bless its demonic effort to force the world’s poor farmers to buy and become dependent on its patented seeds.

The World Food Prize Foundation says it recognizes contributions for “agriculture.” But Monsanto has zero to do with agri-culture. It’s the agri-business face of the unethical, selfish, corruption that the Pope warned about.

For Canada and First Nations, it’s time to end the experiments

Shawn Atleo


The Globe and Mail | July 25, 2013


Recent reports about the Canadian government’s experiments on hungry, impoverished First Nations children in residential schools have sent a shock wave through the country.

My reaction was deeply personal. My father attended one of the schools where these experiments took place. My family and countless others were treated like lab rats, some even being deprived of necessary nutrition and health care so researchers could establish a “baseline” to measure the effects of food and diet.

First Nations, while condemning the government’s callous disregard for the welfare of children, were perhaps the only ones not completely surprised. The experiments are part of a long, sad pattern of federal policy that stretches through residential schools, forced relocations and the ultimate social experiment, the Indian Act, which overnight tried to displace ways of life that had been in place for generations. All of these experiments are abject failures.

It’s time to end the experiments. Canada must start working with us to honour the promises our ancestors made in treaties and other agreements, to give life to our rights as recognized by Canadian courts and relinquish the chokehold of colonial control over our communities.

As I said on the day this report came to light: Canada, this is your history. We must confront the ugly truths and move forward together. And there is a way forward that requires a dedicated commitment across three key areas: respect, fairness and reconciliation.

Respect requires that Canada work with First Nations to give life to our rights, title and treaties. This requires true partnership. The government must stop making decisions for us and start working with us. First Nations want control over the decisions that affect their lives, to shape their own policies and institutions. They are putting ideas on the table and driving solutions.

We see this clearly in the commitment and clarion call for First Nations control of First Nations education. We reject unilaterally imposed legislation. We will exercise our right to create our own systems that are sustainable, that support our children’s success and value our languages and cultures. This is already happening in Nova Scotia, Alberta, B.C. and elsewhere – First Nations working together and pooling expertise to achieve graduation rates that exceed provincial norms. This is success we must support. It must be not the exception, but our collective expectation and commitment.

Fairness requires that we end the unequal funding that condemns too many of our people to a daily struggle to survive. The experiments on our children did not make us poor. Rather, the government experimented on our children because they were poor, an impoverished population suffering from malnutrition and deprivation. But like so much else, poverty was imposed on us. The research notes that government systematically cut back relief payments to First Nations throughout the Depression era. Non-indigenous Canadians received relief at a rate two and three times higher than First Nations. At the onset of the Second World War, relief was cut again and we were further deprived.

This is still happening. Funding for First Nations – for many of the same things Canadians expect, such as schools and infrastructure – has been capped at a 2-per-cent increase, per year, for 17 years, despite the fact that our population has boomed and inflation outpaces this amount. Provinces enjoy transfers closer to 6 per cent, and these are guaranteed.

Escaping the poverty trap requires fairness, an investment now so we can build stable communities today and stronger nations tomorrow. Research shows that healthy First Nations can contribute hundreds of billions to the economy, while saving more than a $100-billion in costs connected to poverty. Why would we not support this approach?

Finally, the way forward requires reconciliation. This means truth telling, and it requires deliberate and clear action. The government must come forward and disclose all documentation on residential schools to the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The government must be open and transparent in accounting for its spending on First Nations and the billion dollars that is poured into the bureaucracy each year. The government must stop stalling and release all documents related to its unequal funding of First Nations child welfare, the subject of a current complaint before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It also means action to advance reconciliation through recognizing our inherent rights and responsibilities and clear commitment to honouring and implementing treaties and agreements forged between the Crown and First Nations.

Canadians are rightfully shocked by these revelations. It shakes the core of their belief in Canada as a fair and just nation. It’s time to be honest about our history. We can’t change the past but we must commit to change the present and work together to create a better, brighter and just future.